BCH #012: EVENT - And the Band Played On
And the Band Played On
Summary: Flying is like dancing at twelve thousand feet.
Date: 13 Feb 2041 AE
Related Logs: None
Tisiphone Daphne Polaris 
The Skies Above Leonis
Just what it says.

"Raptor Three-Three-Niner on approach to the el-zee," crackles a voice over the coms, the pilot's words sounding tinny and filtered as they come through the wireless. "Leonis Tower, how copy?"

"Leonis Tower reads you five-by-five, Raptor Three-Three-Niner. Paddles are green. You are cleared to land."

And just like that the hulking brown silhouette of a Colonial Raptor breaks through the scattered clouds above the docking area on Leonis, her RCS points glowing ominously in the midwinter dusk. Two Vipers scream through the atmosphere above the elephantine craft, their engines carving white-grey contrails in the darkening sky; a third banks into that thin line between air and space, arcing gently upwards and outwards like a silver gull above a purple sea.

Daphne's viper flies along in as tight a formation with Tisiphone's as she can muster. Her flying's come along a bit since her last time out. While her actions in the sims are smooth, her first actual trip off of the battlestar left her a little stiff and clearly not flying to the best of her ability. Here, with a chaperon along for her escort date, she's still a little tense in the cockpit, but it's not as bad. As long as engines don't explode in her face again.

Tisiphone's actions in the sims aren't as smooth as Daphne's — her last virtual trip out ended in a fireball, after all. Her nerves are a little smoother in the actual Viper, though — everything by the book, nice and easy. Nice and easy. She's peeling strip after strip of skin off her bottom lip behind her visor, eyes as flicker-quick and intent as they'd be in a combat situation, but pay that no mind. Her Viper curves upward and outward, heading gently left.

Even a Raptor looks small from several thousand meters above sea level — smaller than the unsightly obelisk that is Leonis Tower; smaller than the several bulk freighters arrayed in a half-circle on the ground; smaller even than the thronging masses of humanity waiting for transport to Cerberus or Spacedock Leonis or wherever their travels might take them.

"Look down, rooks," the lieutenant advises, leveling off so his cockpit faces the ground. Beyond that, he's not bothering to show off; indeed, his touch on the stick is gentle, almost loving. It's almost as if his Viper is flying herself. "That's the only planet you'll be seeing for the next month. Enjoy it."

Steady wins the race. Daphne gives her roll thrusters a quick shot, causing her viper to roll upside down. Another quick burst keeps it inverted. The pilot exhales a bit. Her viper isn't silky smooth, but she's not making herself look bad. For a rook, anyway. «It's a wonderful view, sir. Been years since I was this high over Leonis. It'll almost be a shame to leave it.»

« Almost. » A staticky snort accompanies Tisiphone's comment. Her Viper does a drawn-out barrel roll, rather than remaining inverted; perhaps she's more interested in the stars than the planet dwindling below. At the end of the roll, she's wandered a bit off-course to the left; tipping her Viper back the other way, Tisiphone heads back toward where she's supposed to be.

The first of three spotlights punches through the lingering mist, slashing through the gloaming to paint the Raptor a burnished bronze; its two peers soon follow, flickering into being through intermittent clouds. "Mm," the lieutenant mutters, almost to himself. "Ladies, will you look at that." Not the mumbling of a lascivious Viper stick, this, but the appreciation of an artist — and who said all pilots had to be mavericks and grunts? There's another moment of silence before he speaks again: "Raptor Three-Three-Niner, Salt, eyeballs on you. Touchdown con — hold one, Three-Three-Niner, priority call from Leonis Tower." The ensigns will hear it too:

" — say again, Bucket of Bolts. Confirm krypter call, say again, confirm krypter call." Beat. "Gods damn. Lost 'em entirely. Salt, this is Tower. Mind doing us a favor?"

It's with beautiful reluctance that the lieutenant flicks his Viper level. "Tower, Salt, coordinates received. Take care of our buddy down there. Ladies?" All professionalism, now. "Designate freighter Bucket of Bolts as target Sierra One and move to intercept."

Daphne swallows and resumes her nervous habit of basically munching on her lower lip until occurs to her that it just hurts too much at this point. She switches to the upper lip instead. « Salt, Kolettis. Copy. Sierra-One bearing three zero niner carom three one four. Moving to intercept course heading zero one five, one two angels. » The rookie's craft changes course and ditches some altitude in favor of speed.

« Copy, Lieutenant, » Tisiphone chimes in as well. On the down side, she's not as picture-perfect as Daphne. On the upside, it does leave her a bit more lip to gnaw on while she's trying to keep things nice and easy. « Sierra-One designated, bearing three one four carom three zero five. Moving to intercept. » Nice and easy. Her Viper tips to the side, swapping stars for clouds as they head for the freighter.

"The callsign's Salt," the lieutenant notes mildly. "It's what comes when your surname's 'Shaker'." The small talk flows easily from him as he guides the two ensigns through the lower reaches of the mesosphere, his Viper angling downwards at a smooth forty-five-degree angle. "Could have been worse, though. My mates might have picked 'Booty'. And — careful, rooks. It'll get bumpy in three, two, one — "

Up goes his Viper as he hits a layer of warm air. His fighter shudders slightly as she's caught in the thermals, her maneuvering thrusters firing rapidly to compensate — but soon she settles, slipping back on course as Salt says "Mark."

And from there, really, it won't take long for the Vipers to spot the source of the problem: a lumbering heavy freighter the size of five Raptors laid end-to-end, her engines emitting a sickening plume of flickering blue plasma. She's wallowing a good twelve thousand feet above the surface of Leonis like some large, stricken cow.

<FS3> Daphne rolls Vipers: Success.
<FS3> Tisiphone rolls Vipers: Success.

Daphne pushes through the thermal layer with enough turbulence to break any resemblence of a smooth ride, but she manages to stay relatively on course, nosing down through the barrier in the air and gritting her teeth a little as she passes through to the smoother air beneath the layer itself. Once she spots the flaming freighter, she sucks in her breath and mutters, "Not again. Frak. Me." It's not broadcast, of course. Eyes widen in concern. « Are the engines going to give? » The nervous chuckle at the end betrays her attempt at sounding casual.

« It's a good callsign, Sir. » A moment later, Tisiphone adds, « Not meaning to blow smoke up your tailpipe. Kolettis and I are still waiting for ours. » Callsigns, presumably. Not tailpipes. She doesn't re-enter the stratosphere as smoothly as the Lieutenant, her Viper buffeted upward like a skipping stone before she gets the ship realigned. « Hah! Who needs oceans to surf? » There's a bit of nervous relief brightening her voice — okay, maybe more than a bit — but there's simple enjoyment as well. You don't make it this far if you hate to fly. Upon sighting the freighter, she mutters, « Does this planet eat engines for lunch, or what? »

"Do something dumb and you'll get one in time. And, by the way, that was some nice flying back there — and — whoa, Bessie." There's a low, lazy laugh from the lieutenant. This, it seems, is old hat. "There she blows." One gets the feeling that this, too, is being processed like any other scenic view. "Bucket of Bolts, this is Colonial Viper Three-One-Niner, callsign Salt. Waggle those wings if you copy."

Not that the freighter has much in the way of wings — just little bulbous cargo bays, really, sticking out on each side, three by three — but slowly, agonizingly, the bovine starship tilts to port and then to starboard. A little lamp blinks in rapid succession from the cockpit — COMS DOWN. GIMBALS LOCKED. ENGINES GOOD.

"That's just beautiful," calls Salt, his voice warm. "Right, rooks, running lights on. Overtake and match speed with Sierra One — we'll guide her in ourselves."

« Thank you, sir. » Daphne seizes on her and Tisiphone being complimented. The glow in her voice would probably be embarrassing if she could hear it for herself. She blinks hard at the lights emitted from the Bucket of Bolts, though her recollection of colonial signal is just strong enough for her to get the gist of what's being said by the damaged freighter. « Yes sir. Moving starboard for escort. » Her arm reaches overhead, fingers flicking switches to turn on her craft's running light. She sideslips starboard and increases throttle, pushing out ahead of the wayward freighter.

« Copy, Salt. » Tisiphone's Viper sways a little as her attention moves to the switches. « Running lights on. Moving to port escort. » Her ship slows momentarily when she's alongside the engines — a bit of rubbernecking, perhaps — before continuing to zip ahead to the left.

<FS3> Tisiphone rolls Vipers: Success.
<FS3> Daphne rolls Vipers: Success.
<FS3> Polaris rolls 7: Success.
<FS3> Polaris rolls 4: Success.

"That's an old mother, that one," notes Lieutenant Shaker, his Viper flashing forward to take up position in front of the freighter. "You should look into wiring up a fourth gimbal when you're down there, Bucket of Bolts." Spoken like a professor advising a promising student in whom he's sadly disappointed. "It'd save you and us a lot of trouble, but! Salt has lead. Take her down slow, ladies — just like dancing at the Mid Ball." The Midshipmen's Ball, he means. Salt's also an Academy puke.

And just like that, the stricken freighter locks herself into place, her pilots' eyes fixed on the Vipers' gleaming wings: three dots of green to starboard, three dots of red to port, and three flaring engines dead center. Nine thousand feet — six — four — "You're wobbling a bit, there," Salt advises — three — two — "Better now, better now — that's it."

The last two thousand feet pass in a flash as Leonis Tower illuminates the landing strip cleared specifically for the task; another trio of lights punctures the midnight-blue haze of twilight, cutting like lasers into the smoke that billows from the freighter's overworked engines. And then three Vipers soar into the sky like cranes taking flight, their leader's wings rocking back and forth in salute. "Leonis Tower, Salt, we've got your back. Let the band play on."

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